The Bruins have a high-powered top line and some young studs on defense, but they lack depth and a goaltender of the future.
Welcome to 2020 Vision, our new feature taking a look at how the roster of each NHL team may look three seasons from now when the 2019-2020 season begins.
Over the next month we’ll profile one team, in alphabetical order, each day and project what their roster (12 forwards, six defensemen, two goalies) will look like.
There were some ground rules for this exercise. We didn’t allow any blockbuster trades or free agent signings, but we did make assumptions about teams re-signing their own UFAs and RFAs.
Therefore, this isn’t intended to be a fantasy-like look at the league in 2019-20. Instead, since this is part of the THN Future Watch family, it’s meant to be a realistic, best-case-scenario projection for each team based on players already under contract, and prospects in their system.
The Bruins struck gold this past season with a top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, and there’s no reason to expect any changes at the top of Boston’s lineup. Pastrnak, 21, netting 30 goals and 70 points in his third season makes him look like a budding star, and by the time the 2019-20 campaign rolls around, he will be hitting his prime. Even if he is alongside Bergeron and Marchand as they enter their mid-30s, the trio should still pack enough punch as a unit at both ends of the ice to lead the Bruins.
It’s in the depth, though, where things get tricky. Boston has built up a decent crop of prospects, but several of those young players are going to have to develop into full-time NHLers in short order if the Bruins hope to ice a forward group that can hang with the league’s best. The likes of Anders Bjork, Zach Senyshyn, Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson and Jake DeBrusk will be called upon to fill the lineup, and if they all manage to do so, Boston should have a good mix of size and speed.
Luckily, the prospects up front should get some breathing room from a defense that should be rounding into to form. There are already high hopes for Charlie McAvoy after an impressive playoff performance and Brandon Carlo showed in his first season that he’s a more-than-capable second-pairing guy. The questions, developmentally speaking, are Jakub Zboril and Ryan Lindgren, but both project to earn NHL jobs in the not-too-distant future and can be brought along slowly with a top three of McAvoy, Carlo and Torey Krug.
And, seemingly as always, Tuukka Rask will still be around to man the pipes. The netminder can benefit from a defense corps that has been refreshed and rejuvenated by youth, and, at 33, he should still be able to perform like a top-tier netminder. There will be an interesting battle in the crease, though, between Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban. Both signed new two-year contracts and will be up for new deals by 2019-20. Will one rise to become the Rask’s successor? Subban has disappointed in recent years and it appears McIntyre could eclipse the 2012 first-round pick on the depth chart.
GOT IT: The quality of the Bruins’ defensive prospects is incredibly promising, and if all develop into the NHL players its believed they can be, Boston could be icing one of the better defense corps in short order. Add in the potential for Jeremy Lauzon to be ready in three years’ time and the entire blueline could be talented and under 30 come 2019-20.
NEED IT: Boston has to find a future in goal. Even if McIntyre or Subban step up and snatch the No. 2 job, neither is currently positioned to take over once Rask reaches his mid-30s, nor are either equipped to be a long-term starter if injury fells the Bruins’ starter. A solid No. 2 option would give Boston a safety net they don’t currently possess.
CAP WATCH: Marchand, Bergeron, Krug and Rask are locked up to good deals, but Backes will be earning $6 million at 36, Beleskey $3.8 million at 32 and Krejci’s $7.25 million is going to be tough to stomach if he declines. New contracts for Pastrnak and Spooner, which should come before this coming season starts, will be key, especially because McAvoy, Carlo and Forsbacka-Karlsson will be in line for new deals ahead of 2019-20. It’s going to take some maneuvering, but the Bruins should be able to keep their cap situation under control.
BOTTOM LINE: Most important to Boston’s future success is developing their defensemen. If the blueline comes together, the Bruins have the ability to be in the playoff picture — and potentially Stanley Cup contention — with a solid mix of veteran and youth talent throughout their lineup.
Up next: Buffalo Sabres